EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — The New York Islanders activated Ryan Pulock off long-term injured reserve on Sunday — the team’s first practice following the All-Star break.
The 29-year-old veteran blueliner had missed the previous 24 games after suffering a lower-body injury during a Dec. 7 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets when he took a Zach Werenski shot off the ankle late in the second period.
“It’s great to be back out there,” Pulock said. “Obviously, it’s been a long time. Just to get in on a practice and be with the guys, and we had some change while I was out. Trying to get accustomed to that. Today was a good day.”
His injury was just the latest in an onslaught of issues with Islanders defensemen, which included considerable absences of Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, and Sebastian Aho.
While Mayfield and Aho are back in the lineup, Pelech is day-to-day after suffering an upper-body injury from an illegal hit from Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher — prompting a five-game suspension — on Jan. 25.
Both Pulock and Pelech, who have been long-time partners on the blue line, are game-time decisions for Monday night’s clash in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.
“I love playing with Ryan,” Pelech said. “We’ve definitely been missing him the past couple months so we’re all glad he’s back, myself especially.”
Pulock is an invaluable top-four defenseman for New York, who attempted to supplement his loss by bringing on the likes of Robert Bortuzzo and Mike Reilly while giving Samuel Bolduc a bump in playing time.
Bortuzzo was also bitten by the injury bug and was transferred to LTIR on Sunday.
In 25 games this season, Pulock had two goals and four assists while averaging 22:47 of ice time — a career-high — and participating on the power-play. He now re-enters a side that has made a head-coaching change since his departure with Patrick Roy taking over for Lane Lambert last month.
“I think Ryan was a little rusty, which is normal,” Roy said. “But he’s been working so hard to be back in the lineup so I’m very happy with the way he practiced. Same thing with [Pelech]… He’s been one of our better defensemen if not our best D. They’re two good vets and they’re very important players to this team.”